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ERMETH: The First Swiss Computer
October-December 2005 (vol. 27 no. 4)
pp. 5-22
In 1948 the Federal Institute of Technology in Z?rich, Switzerland, (ETH), established a new institute in its mathematics division, the Institute of Applied Mathematics. Its first director, Professor Eduard Stiefel, recognized from the beginning, that the newly emerging computers would be adamant to this new field of mathematics. The early use of the Zuse Z4 Computer at Stiefel's Institute is well known, however no detailed description about Stiefel's own construction, the ERMETH computer have been published so far. This article describes why Stiefel decided to build his own computer and what objectives he set for it. The article also gives insight into the construction of ERMET, how it was programmed, and what it was used for.

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2. H. Rutishauser, "Massnahmen zur Vereinfachung des Programmierens (Bericht über die in fünfjährige Programmierungsarbeit mit der Z4 Gewonnenen Erfahrungen" [Measures to Simplify Programming (Report on the Experiences Gained in Five Years of Programming the Z4], Nachrichtentechnische Fachberichte, vol. 4, pp. 26-30 (in German).
3. A.P. Speiser, "The Relay Calculator Z4," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 2, no. 3, 1980, pp. 242-245.
4. A.P. Speiser, "Konrad Zuse's Z4: Architecture, Programming, and Modifications at the ETH Zurich," The First Computers— History and Architectures, R. Rojas and U. Hashagen, eds., MIT Press, pp. 263-276.
5. E. Stiefel, "Rechenautomaten im Dienste der Technik. Erfahrungen mit dem Zuse-Rechenautomaten Z4. K" [Automatic Calculators in the Service of Technology. Experiences with the Zuse Automatic Calculator Z4], Veröffentlichungen der Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Forschung des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen. Natur-, Ingenieur- und Gesellschaftswissenschaften, vol. 45, 1954, pp. 29-65 (in German).
6. B. Tobler, "Z4 und ERMETH: Maschinen im Dienste des Wissenschaftlichen Rechnens, Interview mit Ambros Speiser und Carl August Zehnder," Loading History— Computergeschichte(n) aus der Schweiz ["Machines in the Service of Scientific Calculation, Interview with Ambros Speiser and Carl August Zehnder," Loading History— Computer Histories from Switzerland], vol. 1, Kommunikation und Kultur [Communication and Culture], Museum für Kommunikation, 2001 (in German).
7. A.P. Speiser, H. Rutishauser, and E. Stiefel, "Programmgesteuerte digitale Rechengeräte" [Program-Driven Digital Calculation Tools], Mitteilungen aus dem Institut für angewandte Mathematik an der Eidgenössischen Technischen Hochschule in Zürich, vol. 2, Birkhäuser, 1951 (in German).
8. J. Robert Stock, "Die Mathematischen Grundlagen für die Organisation der Elektronischen Rechenmaschine der Eidgenössischen Technischen Hochschule" [Mathematical Foundations for the Organization of the Electronic Calculation Machine of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology], Mitteilungen aus dem Institut für angewandte Mathematik an der Eidgenössischen Technischen Hochschule in Zürich, vol. 6, 1956 (in German).
9. A. Schai, "Die Elektronischen und Magnetischen Schaltungen der ERMETH" [Electronic and Magnetic Circuits of the ERMETH], Scientia Electrica, vol. 3, no. 4, 1957, pp. 127-140 (in German).
10. H. Waldburger, Gebrauchsanleitung für die ERMETH [Operating Instructions for the ERMETH], Institut für angewandte Mathematik der ETH, 1960 (in German).
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12. M.V. Wilkes, D.J. Wheeler, and S. Gill, The Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Computer, Addison-Wesley, 1951.
13. F.K. Kneubühl, Die Berechnung und Auswertung von Mikrowellen-Rotationsspektren durch ein Programm der Elektronischen Rechenmaschine ERMETH [The Calculation and Interpretation of Microwave Rotational Spectra by a program on the Electronic Calculation Machine ERMETH], Juris, 1959 (in German).
14. F.K. Kneubühl, T. Gäumann, and Hs.H. Günthard, "A Program for Automatic Digital Computation of Transition Frequencies and Analysis of Microwave Rotational Spectra of Rigid Asymmetric Tops," J. Molecular Spectroscopy, vol. 3, 1959, pp. 349-362.
15. H. Zuse, "Konrad Zuse Multimedia Show," CD-ROM published by Horst Zuse, Berlin, 2003.
1. E. Stiefel, Richtungsfelder und Fernparallelismus in n-dimensionalen Mannigfaltigkeiten [Direction Fields and Remote Parallelism in n-dimensional Diversity], Orell Füssli, 1935 (in German).
2. A special degree must be earned after the PhD to become a member of the faculty of a university in Germany or Switzerland. The degree is called Privatdozent (PD), the act to gain the degree is called Habilitation, and the thesis is called Habilitationsschrift. The degree proves that a person is qualified to undertake research work, to teach, and to assess student exams at university level. With this degree, an individual is eligible to be appointed as professor.
3. E. Stiefel, Ueber eine Beziehung Zwischen Geschlossenen Lie'schen Gruppen und Diskontinuierlichen Bewegungsgruppen Euklidischer Räume und ihre Anwendung auf die Aufzählung der einfachen Lie'schen [About a Relationship between Closed Lie groups and Discontinous Movement Groups of Euclidian Spaces and Its Application to Enumerating Simple Lie Groups], Commentarii mathematici helvetici, vol. 14, 1942, pp. 350-380 (in German).
4. E. Stiefel and M.R. Hestenes, "Method of Conjugate Gradients for Solving Linear Systems," J. Research of the National Bureau of Standards, vol. 49, pp. 409-436.
5. W. Hein and E. Stiefel, Bibliographie Prof. Dr. Eduard Stiefel (1909–1978), 1979, manuscript contained in the ETH Archives (in German).
1. H. Rutishauser, Ueber Folgen und Scharen von Analytischen und Meromorphen Funktionen mehrerer Variablen, sowie von Analytischen Abbildungen [About Series and Collections of Analytic and Meromorph Functions of Multiple Variables, as well as of Analytical Projections], doctoral dissertation, ETH Zürich, 1950 (in German).
2. H. Rutishauser, Automatische Rechenplanfertigung bei Programmgesteuerten Rechenmaschinen [Automatic Computing Plan Manufacturing with Program Controlled Calculating Machines], (Habilitationsschrift ETH Nr. 4), thesis, Basel, 1952 (in German).
3. M.H. Gutknecht, "The Pioneering Days of Scientific Computing in Switzerland," Proc. ACM Conf. History of Scientific and Numeric Computation, ACM Press, 1987.
4. M.H. Gutknecht, "Listen der Publikationen und Doktoranden von Heinz Rutishauser" [List of Publications and Doctoral Students of Heinz Rutishauser], Research Report, Seminar für angewandte Mathematik der ETH, Zürich, Nr. 82-01, 1982 (in German).
5. H. Rutishauser, Description of Algol 60, Springer, 1967.
6. F.L. Bauer, "My Years with Rutishauser," presented at the Latsis Symp., ("Symposium on Iterative Solvers for Large Linear Systems") held by ETH Zürich and cosponsored by the Latsis Foundation, 2002; http://www.cs.umd.edu/users/oleary/cgggbauer.pdf .
1. A.P. Speiser, Entwurf eines Elektronischen Rechengerätes unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Erfordernisse eines minimalen Materialaufwandes bei Gegebener Mathematischer Leistungsfähigkeit [Draft of an Electronic Calculation Tool under Special Considerations of the Requirements of a Minimal Expense in Material at a Given Mathematical Capacity], self-published doctoral thesis, ETH Archives, Zürich, 1950 (in German).
2. A.P. Speiser, "IBM Research Laboratory Zurich: The Early Years," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 20, no. 1, 1998, pp. 15-28.
3. A.P. Speiser, Digitale Rechenanlagen [Digital Calculation Systems], Springer, 1965 (in German).

Index Terms:
ERMETH, ETH, Switzerland, Stiefel
Citation:
Hans Neukom, "ERMETH: The First Swiss Computer," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 5-22, Oct.-Dec. 2005, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2005.58
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